Frei: Erik Johnson fist pump was pent up since March 2020
The post-goal fist pump of Erik Johnson Saturday night was as demonstrative of a post-goal celebration as we’ve seen from him in his 10-plus years with the Avalanche.
(Yes, that’s right — 10-plus years).
So after the Avalanche’s 4-1 win over the Wild at Ball Arena, I asked the veteran defenseman what emotions that goal triggered … and why.
“It’s been a while, obviously with the COVID year and then not playing last year,” he said. “It just felt good to get on the board again, and at home in front of the fans. It’s tough to describe the adrenaline and the feelings when you score a goal like that. If you could bottle it up and save it for a bad day, you want to do that because it feels good.”
Johnson played only four games early last season before concussion issues knocked him out of the lineup, and the goal was his first since March 6, 2020, at Vancouver. It came at 17:34 of the second period and gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead.
“I think any time you play a division rival it means maybe a little but more,” he said. “It feels better, but they all feel good. So whether it was on a Tuesday against an Eastern opponent or a Saturday against a division opponent, I think they feel good. It’s hard to score, so it’s something to be happy about it and even better when it comes in a win.”
But he’s from the Twin Cities. I asked him if there was a hometown element involved at all.
“Except I just get more messages from people back home,” he said. “Or less just ‘cuz they’re mad because they like the Wild. But, no, it’s fun. Yeah, friends and family (are) watching back home, so yeah, a little bit, a little extra of that.”
Before his goal, Johnson had to stay out after getting nailed by a shot on a penalty kill.
“They seem to hit you in places you don’t have the pads,” he said. “I don’t know how because I have pads, and extra ones, everywhere. Just on the inside of the ankle. That gives you a dead leg, it’s pretty useless after that. Of course, you spend the whole two minutes in the zone hobbling around. Luckily, (Darcy Kuemper) made some huge saves, some other guys made some huge blocks and I tried to hobble out there the best I could.”
Johnson, a team-leading plus-6, is enjoying his return.
“I was just telling the guys when we’re in a tight game, up a goal, it’s just so much fun to be out there, just feed off the crowd and that emotion in the building. Just to be a part of a big game feels really, really good. It’s just so much fun to be out there. The enthusiasm from the crowd and our guys … it’s just so good to be back and to be a part of it and be in meaningful games like that. It’s been a long time.”
Terry Frei (email@example.com) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sports writer of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here